Ohio widower paints the town to make it a brighter place

This story was originally published on May 4, 2012 and was updated on August 10, 2012

(CBS News) GLOUSTER, Ohio - Earlier this summer, "On the Road" introduced you to a man who decided to spruce up his community -- by painting everything in sight. Well, the idea has really caught on, so we went back to lay on a second coat of paint.

After Jim Cotter last his wife last year, he set out to paint the town. But, don't judge him too harshly for that -- not until you hear the rest of the story.

"I miss her," he told CBS News. "And this just gives me something that keeps me from missing her more."

The town Jim set out to paint is Glouster, Ohio, population 2,000. Once a thriving coal community, it's been peeling - and unappealing - for years.

"It's become dilapidated," Cotter said.

Cotter says he's always wished someone would fix it up, and so after his wife died, he decided to be that someone.

"I can do something about the town. We'll paint it," he said. "The whole town."

Learn more and find out how to help at GlousterVolunteers.com

He started with a fire hydrant, moved down the road to the guardrail and then hit a home stretch.

Cotter painted house after house, business after business - all for free.

Bonny Shifflet owns the newly painted Bonnie's Restaurant. She says she cried when she saw her business. "I tell you, it did something to me," she said.

"It's just amazing what a little bit of paint will do," Cotter said. "It changes people's hearts."

It also inspires them to join in. Over the last few months, volunteers have been coming out of the woodwork to paint the woodwork and help Cotter reach his goal. "It's just gone like topsy," Cotter said.

Today, you can't walk more than a couple blocks in Glouster without finding someone painting something. Even the high school kids have been Tom Sawyer-ed into helping.

Not a painter? Not a problem. Jim has found a way for pretty much everyone one to contribute. And again, these are all volunteers donating their own time and often their own materials to work on buildings that aren't even their own. "We're getting something out of it because it makes us feel better about our town," one volunteer said.

"It's just what a community ought to do," Cotter said.

After our first story aired in May, some people watching were so impressed with Jim and the transformation he's inspiring, that they began making pilgrimages to Glouster -- some from other states - all wanting to be part of it.

Last month, 260 people showed up in one day alone.

Together they painted 17 houses, helping Jim get that much to his ultimate goal of painting the whole town -- and inspiring other towns to take on their own, seemingly impossible tasks.

"You just have to get off your rear end and get it done," Cotter said. "Don't wait on the government. Don't wait on a grant. And don't wait on money. You've got to do it. And that's the key."

Jim and his volunteers had already painted more than 20 houses even before the influx, making their community a brighter place to live. The latest boost, as much as anything, has given Jim Cotter a fresh coat of purpose.

If you'd like to donate to the folks in Glouster, checks can be made out to 'Glouster Volunteers' and sent to this address:

Glouster Volunteers
c/o Jody Moore
134 Allen Road
Glouster, OH 45732

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, e-mail us.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter